It’s safe to say that the Japanese luxury brand took the U.S. market by storm when it made its debut nearly 30 years ago. It did take them a decade or so to finally take the reigns, mind you, but when they did, Lexus became the best-sold premium brand in the U.S. for 11 straight years. It was only in 2011 that they were finally dethroned by the German duo of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. At the moment, Toyota’s luxury division is selling north of 300,000 units a year in the U.S. The exact figure for 2017 was 305,229 units, down 11.34 percent compared to their record year 2015, when they pushed 344,601 models. The Japanese are hoping that the upcoming 2019 Lexus models might finally reverse the negative trend that’s been plaguing them these past three years or so.
They’d need a groundbreaking range-redefining change, like the one they pulled a few years back when they introduced a recognizable spindle grille, for that to happen. That, or an entirely new compact crossover which is sure to boost their overall sales. You’ve probably guessed the Lexus brass have decided to try the latter. Apart from the all-new Lexus UX compact crossover, here’s what to buy and what to stay away from in the Lexus lineup during MY 2019.
What’s Hot In the New 2019 Lineup
05. 2019 UX
Let’s take care of the obvious choice first. The 2019 Lexus UX is intended as a future cornerstone of the Lexus brand. With small crossovers becoming more popular even than mid-size sedans, it’s no wonder the Japanese pulled this move. The only thing we really want to know is why they didn’t do it sooner? Of course, the compact NX, and especially the mid-size RX, will likely remain the best-selling Lexus vehicles alongside the ES luxury sedan. The upstart subcompact UX will probably record similar sales figures after a trial run in the market. It should also give the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, and BMW X1 a run for their money. The UX rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform which it shares with the Toyota CH-R. In other words, it’ll sport similar dimensions as its non-luxury subcompact sibling.
The new Lexus UX will be available in two forms at launch. The base UX200 will sport a naturally aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower and a CVT transmission. Although it promises best-in-class fuel economy among non-hybrids, this will definitely make the Lexus less exciting than its German competitors. The other option will offer even better fuel economy despite punching a stronger kick. The UX250h hybrid sports the same 2.0L 4-cylinder internal combustion bit of the setup, but adds two electric motors (one on each axle) for a net output of 176 horsepower. Despite all the advancements in recent years, the Japanese are still sticking with the Ni-MH batteries, though. The base version should start from below the $35,000 mark with the hybrid commanding a slight premium. Finally, only the latter will be available with all-wheel drive.
04. 2019 ES
Before the SUV craze hit the ground running, it was the mid-size ES sedan that had served as the Lexus brand’s bread and butter. The ES was their very first model back in 1989, after all, although it was surely more compact in size back then. After almost 30 years on the market and six generations, the Japanese are finally ready to give it a well-deserved and much-needed makeover. The seventh-generation 2019 Lexus ES rides on the new TNGA platform which helps it grow in size while moving closer to the ground at the same time. New aesthetics make it look even more contemporary, which is something that Lexus simply had to pay attention to if they wanted to fight off the mighty competition from Germany. Yet, the Lexus ES’ biggest advantage is its affordability. At least, compared to the aforementioned competition.
The new Lexus ES continues with a 3.5L V6 as its base engine, only this time with both direct and port injection. Similar to the new Toyota Camry, the next-gen ES also gets a new 8-speed automatic transmission and more power to boot. The outgoing models had made 268 horsepower whereas the next-gen ES generates 302 ponies and 267 pound-feet of twist. This increase in power successfully offsets the ES’ 78 pounds increase in weight. A hybrid version follows a similar pattern. The only difference is, the ES300h sports a 2.5L 4-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine with a combined 215 horsepower, and returns much better fuel economy numbers reaching as much as 44 miles to the gallon combined. It also costs some $3,000 more, to begin with. The Japanese are also offering another mid-size option in the versatile GS. In consolidating their lineup, they might decide to ax the GS after MY 2019, leaving the ES as their sole mid-size offering. For now, though, the GS is still safe and sound.
03. 2019 LC
The Lexus LC represents the pinnacle of almost 3 decades of engineering on Lexus’ part. The personal luxury grand tourer isn’t only one of their most luxurious offerings, but also one of their most handsome and most powerful models. This true flagship car that costs upwards of $90,000 is still rather fresh having debuted for MY 2018, but the Japanese are already working on spicing it up behind the curtains. More and more rumors about the even more powerful LC F version are circulating around the web, and we have to admit we’re sold on the idea. The potential performance coupe could be powered by a 600 plus horsepower 4.0L twin-turbo V8 mill that would mark the end of naturally aspirated engine usage in the sporty F Lexus models. Moreover, that would be only the third time that Lexus has used a turbocharged engine in its 30 years on the market. To be quite honest, we’re just as shocked as you to read that sentence. With forced induction becoming more popular than ever, it would seem almost unwise to purposely steer clear of the benefits of turbos.
Before the Lexus LC F arrives, potential buyers will have to make do with the LC 500 and LC 500h which make “only” 471 and 354 horsepower respectively. The former uses a naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 in order to achieve that goal, while the latter sports a 3.5L hybrid V6 powertrain working on the Atkinson Cycle. At the same time, the former boasts a modern 10-speed auto transmission, while the latter makes do with a continuously variable 4-speed automatic gearbox. 2,484 units sold in the U.S. during 2017 might seem like a low figure, but being a highly dedicated niche vehicle, the Lexus LC should be fine. And, it’ll be even more fine if it ends up swallowing that twin-turbo V8 we mentioned earlier.
02. 2019 RX
This mid-size luxury crossover is by far the best-sold Lexus vehicle at the moment. The Japanese have sold 108,407 RX models in the U.S. during 2017. In comparison, its closest followers, the NX and ES have pushed “only” 59,341 and 51,398 units respectively. Needless to say, Toyota’s luxury division can’t afford to let their bread and butter vehicle become outdated. Because the current generation runs basically unchanged since MY 2016, it’s evident the 2019 Lexus RX will be updated. Being a mid-cycle update though, the changes will be kept to a minimum. Slightly revised front and rear fascias, a few additional features and some updates to the interior are pretty much all there is to it.
The biggest and most important change, though, came in the face of an entirely new RX 350L model which debuted midway through 2018. The RX 350L is the long-wheelbase model with three rows of seats that should cost almost $4,500 more than the entry-level RX 350. Both sport the same 3.5L V6 engine, although the base model develops 295 horsepower while the RX 350L only pushes 290, no doubt because of the added weight. The RX 450h hybrid, on the other hand, ensures its 3.5L V6 gets a helping hand from an electric system, hence the higher total power output of 308 ponies. There’s an off-chance the Japanese will add another model to an already competitive Lexus RX lineup. The possible model would likely don the RX 300 moniker and sport a 235-horsepower 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine also found in the smaller NX 300 crossover.
01. 2019 RC
The premium compact coupe has been available since MY 2015, but its sales have almost halved since then. It’s evident the Japanese had to do something, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. The new Lexus RC benefits from a mid-cycle facelift that’s sharpened up its already sharp styling. Most of the emphasis was be put on the performance RC F models, which sport more advanced Brembo disks, a torque-vectoring differential, and front and rear coil-spring independent suspension, among other upgrades. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the F sport program, the Japanese have also offered a special edition RC F model limited to 240 units. If you wonder why 240, that’s the exact number of U.S. Lexus dealers. Other than that, every single Lexus RC for MY 2019 gets a retuned suspension with new dampers and tires. As for the interior, very little has changed, but it’s worth noting the Apple CarPlay is now standard.
The Lexus RC F draws power from a 5.0L V8 mill capable of producing 467 horsepower which are routed to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike the RC F, the conventional Lexus RC lineup offers a choice between 3 engines. The rear-wheel-drive RC 300’s 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder yields 241 horsepower, the all-wheel-drive RC 300’s 3.5L V6 makes 260 horsepower, and the RC 350’s corresponding V6 unit produces 311 horsepower. Although all models come with mandatory automatics, the rear-wheel drive units benefit from a more contemporary 8-speed unit. All-wheel drive models, on the other hand, make do with 6-speed autos. Prices start from just north of $42,000 for the RC300 which is a slight increase over previous years. The same goes for the remainder of the RC range.
What’s Not In the New 2019 Lineup
03. 2019 LX
The aged full-size boxy SUV that draws inspiration from the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser is practically running on the same underpinnings since 2008. After its last facelift, which brought it up to the new Lexus standards, sales saw a substantial increase, but you can only beat a dead horse for so long. MY 2019 won’t bring any significant changes, hence buying the 2019 Lexus LX is probably not the smartest of moves – especially considering the all-new model is on its way. The same probably goes for its “non-premium” stablemate, the Land Cruiser. If one can call the Land Cruiser non-premium, that is.
Potential buyers will be happy to know that the Lexus LX can now be ordered without the third row of seats, which cuts some $5,000 off the price. That’s practically all there is to it when it comes to more significant updates in the past couple of years. A 5.7L V8 with 383 horsepower mated to an 8-speed auto remains the sole engine offering, and likely will for the unforeseeable future. It’s not the most efficient of powertrains (to put it mildly), but people with the means to buy a $90,000 full-size SUV probably won’t have too many sleepless nights because of that. If the Japanese are planning on keeping their full-size SUVs relevant, they’ll have to address their aging issues sooner rather than later, though.
02. 2019 IS
The current third-generation of the Lexus IS has been running since MY 2014, and refreshed models arrived somewhat early in order to coincide with the major lineup-revamp process of 2015. The next-gen models will not arrive prior to MY 2020 at the earliest, which actually makes the compact executive car one of the oldest models in the Lexus portfolio. Of course, the compact is far from being outdated, but the 2019 IS probably won’t be bringing anything new to the table. With the things standing the way they are, it’s probably better to explore other, more advanced options out there. Especially considering its German rivals are usually more fun to drive and have much sharper handling.
The fact the IS offers two different engines in three sets of tunes can actually be counted towards its advantage. Base IS 300 rear-wheel drive models get a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower. The IS 300 with all-wheel drive ups the ante with a 3.5L V6 worthy of 260 horsepower. Finally, the most powerful IS 350 models receive a 311-horsepower version of a 3.5L V6. All rear-wheel-drive models, regardless of engine, benefit from an 8-speed auto transmission, while all-wheel-drive models keep the older 6-speed auto as their gear-shifting unit. This will surely remain unchanged for MY 2019 as well, so you know what you’re in for if you decide to go for one.
01. 2019 GX
The Japanese-made mid-size crossover’s second generation debuted in late 2009, and it’s still running on the same underpinnings. It hasn’t effectively been updated since 2014 which makes it one of the most venerable Lexus models out there. Despite receiving the now-hallmark spindle grille, the mid-size crossover is evidently showing its age. Poor fuel economy, sluggish acceleration, and a less than impressive amount of cargo room are only a few shortcomings that go along with that. Despite the obvious disadvantages, sales have actually doubled since the mentioned revision from 2014. Lexus has actually sold 27,190 units in 2017 whereas they only pushed 12,136 of them in 2013. That might be one of the reasons the new model still hasn’t been announced.
The 2019 Lexus GX will keep running on the same body-on-frame chassis, bolstered by the same 301-horsepower 4.6L V8 engine. A 6-speed automatic remains the sole available choice as the more contemporary 8-speed auto is reserved for correspondingly contemporary models. An all-wheel-drive configuration with a locking center differential, however, helps it achieve more than respectable off-roading capabilities. Especially given its luxurious nature. A redesign will have to be a priority though, and that should happen as soon as the Japanese consolidate the rest of their lineup.